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Siege of Clarksville (The First Stone)

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Siege of Clarksville
ConflictAmerican Civil War (The First Stone)
DateJanuary 19-25, 1863
PlaceClarksville, Tennessee
ResultGeorge Thomas lifts the siege and retreats into Kentucky;The battle's outcome ultimately causes British parliament to recognize the Confederacy.
Combatants
United States of America Confederate States of America
Commanders
George H. Thomas Braxton Bragg
Strength
Army of the Ohio (35,500) Army of Tennessee (30,100)
Casualties
4,331 killed
7,314 captured
762 missing
3,445 killed
1,231 captured
243missing


Prelude

An irritant Braxton Bragg fell back into the confines of Clarksville, following his fierce battle outside the city the day before. Both Bragg and Thomas had spent the next day laying down siege lines. During this time Bragg sent an envoy to Richmond, begging for reinforcements.

First Garrett's Farm

On the 21st, Bragg had had enough of the siege, and attacked the Union center at Garrett's Farm. Although the Union lines appeared thin in the center, the reverse was true. And that very place is where Thomas had predicted where Bragg would attack. The charging Confederates were mowed down by artillery, and by the time they reached the Union lines, there were hardly any left. The Union soldiers countercharged and forced the thinned out Confederates back to their lines. Bragg is inconsolable the rest of the day.

Deep Hill Swamp

Bragg, on the 23, attempts an outflanking maneuver over the Union right. The unfortunate Confederates, however, have go through a swamp. They are slowed down and the attack doesn't come until late afternoon. The Confederates, worn and exhausted, put up as best a fight as they can, but they are turned back into the swamp, where they take up positions and keep the Union soldiers at bay by practicing guerrilla warfare.

Second Garrett's Farm

On the 24, reinforcements from Richmond began to flow into Tennessee, although many would not reach Clarksville by the end of the day. The one entire corps that arrived was the cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest and Patrick Cleburne attempted a pincer movement on the Union lines, Cleburne flanking the salient at Garrett's Farm, Forrest rolling up the siege lines to the south of Clarksville. After a day of fierce fighting, Cleburne was forced to retreat. Forrest, on the other hand, had repeatedly crushed Union soldiers throughout the afternoon and removed the threat to the Clarksville train station.

Reed Creek

Thomas, unsettled by the flow of reinforcements and the loss of his troops threatening the train station, ordered a charge to take it back. The attacks were fierce, but by noon, the Union momentum was all but gone. General Cheatham and Forrest led a sweeping counterattack, almost breaking the Union ranks. But the Union lines held firm at Deep Hill Swamp and Reed Creek. Reinforcements from Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had arrived earlier that day, and Bragg ordered General Ewell to attack Garrett's Farm. Ewell almost didn't do it, seeing the other failed attempts. Still, his troops marched on Garrett's Field, and broke the thinned out Union center. Forrest's cavalry and Ewell's division came together in a pincer movement and captured the nearly five thousand Union soldiers at Reed Creek. Ewell, however, was mortally wounded in the fighting. Thomas, sensing defeat, managed to successfully withdraw his army from the siege without it being routed.

Aftermath

The repurcussions of the engagement rang loud and clear. The Union army under Thomas retreated into Kentucky, hoping Bragg would attack there. But Bragg had no reason to leave Clarksville. After two days, British Parliament heard of the battle and subsequently passed the resolution that recognized the Confederacy. It, for all intents and purposes, ended the war. Braxton Bragg became a national hero, along with Patrick Cleburne, Benjamin Cheatham, and Nathan B. Forrest. There was even a martyr, Richard Ewell. The Confederacy's dream had finally come true.

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